Mr. Frank Jenner; the George Street evangelist
As you read, listen or watch the following, please pray that this story will be an encouragement to every believer in Jesus Christ to share the Good News with those around us.
Ask God whom He might be putting in your path today.
first published 13/06/07
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A NUMBER OF YEARS AGO in a Baptist church in Crystal Palace, in southern London, the Sunday morning service was closing, and a stranger stood up in the back, raised his hand, and said, “Excuse me pastor, can I share a little testimony?” The Pastor looked at his watch and said, “You’ve got three minutes.” And this man proceeded.
He said, “I just moved into this area, I used to live in another part of London, I came from Sydney, in Australia. And just a few months back I was visiting some relatives and I was walking down George Street, you know where George Street is in Sydney, it runs from the business hub out to the rocks of the Colonial area.” And he said, “A strange little white-haired man stepped out of a shop doorway, put a pamphlet in my hand and said, ‘Excuse me sir, are you saved? If you died tonight, are you going to heaven?’ “
He said, “I was astounded by those words. Nobody had ever told me that. I thanked him courteously, and all the way on British Airlines, back to Heathrow, this puzzled me. I called a friend who lived in this new area, where I’m living now, and thank God, he was a Christian - He led me to Christ. And I’m a Christian, and I want to fellowship here.” And Baptists love testimonies like that. Everyone applauded and welcomed him into the fellowship.
That Baptist Pastor flew to Adelaide, in Australia, the next week. And ten days later, in the middle of a three day series in a Baptist Church in Adelaide, a woman came to him for counseling, and he wanted to establish where she stood with Christ.
And she said, “I used to live in Sydney. And just a couple of months back, I was visiting friends in Sydney, doing some last minute shopping down George Street, and a strange little white-haired man, elderly man, stepped out of a shop doorway, offered me a pamphlet and said, ‘Excuse me ma’am, are you saved? If you died tonight, are you going to heaven?’”
She said, “I was disturbed by those words. When I got back to Adalaide, I knew this Baptist church was on the next block from me, and I sought out the Pastor, and he led me to Christ. So sir, I’m telling you that I am a Christian.”
Now this London Pastor was now very puzzled. Twice, within a fortnight, he’d heard the same testimony. He then flew to preach in the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Perth. And when his teaching series was over, the senior elder of that church took him out for a meal. And he said, “Mate, how’d you get saved?”
He said, “I grew up in this church from the age of fifteen through Boy’s Brigade. Never made a commitment to Jesus, just hopped on the bandwagon like everybody else. And because of my business ability, grew up to a place of influence. I was on a business outing in Sydney just three years ago, and an obnoxious, spiteful little man stepped out a shop doorway, offered me a religious pamphlet (Cheap junk!), and accosted me with a question, ‘Excuse me sir, Are you saved? If you died tonight are you going to heaven?’ “ He said, “I tried to tell him I was a Baptist elder. He wouldn’t listen to me.” He said, “I was seething with anger all the way home on Quantus Two to Perth.” He said, “I told my pastor thinking he would sympathize with me, and my pastor agreed. He had been disturbed for years, knowing that I didn’t have a relationship with Jesus - and he was right. And my pastor led me to Jesus just three years ago.”
Now this London preacher flew back to the U. K. and was speaking at the Keswick Convention in the Lake District, and he threw in these three testimonies. At the close of his teaching session, four elderly pastors came up and said, “We got saved between 25 and 35 George Street years ago, respectively, through that little man on George Street giving us a tract and asking us that question.” He then flew the following week to a similar Keswick Convention in the Caribbean, to missionaries. And He shared the testimonies.
At the close of his teaching session, three missionaries came up and said, “We got saved between 15 and 25 years ago, respectively, through that little man’s testimony and asking us that same question on George Street in Sydney.”
Coming back to London, he stopped outside Atlanta, Georgia, to speak at a Naval Chaplain’s convention. And when his three days of revving these Navy Chaplains up, over a thousand of them, in soul-winning, the chaplain general took him out for a meal. And he said, “How’d you become a Christian?”
He said,”Well it was miraculous! I was a rating on a United States Battleship, and I lived a reprobate life. We were doing exercises in the South Pacific, and we docked in Sydney Harbor for replenishments. We hit King’s Cross with a vengeance. I got blind drunk. I got on the wrong bus
- got off in George Street. As I got off the bus, I thought it was a ghost. This elderly white-haired man jumped in front of me, pushed a pamphlet into my hands and said, ‘Sailor, are you saved? If you died tonight, are you going to heaven?’” He said, “The fear of God hit me immediately. I was shocked sober, and ran back to the battleship, sought out the chaplain, the chaplain led me to Christ and I soon began to prepare for the ministry under his guidance. And here I am in charge of over a thousand chaplains and we’re bent on soul-winning today.”
That London preacher, six months later, flew to do a convention for 5000 Indian missionaries in a remote corner of northeastern India. And at the end, the Indian missionary in charge, a humble little man, took him home to his humble little home, for a simple meal. And he said, “How did you, as a Hindu, come to Christ?” He said, “I was in a very privileged position, I worked for the Indian diplomatic mission. And I traveled the world. And I am so glad for the forgiveness of Christ, and His blood covering my sin, because I’d be very embarrassed if people found out what I got into.”
He said, “One bout of diplomatic service took me to Sydney. And I was doing some last minute shopping, laden with parcels of toys and clothing for my children, walking down George Street. And this courteous, little white-haired man stepped out in front of me, offered me a pamphlet, and said, ‘Excuse me sir, are you saved? If you died tonight are you going to heaven?’” He said, “I thanked him very much, but this disturbed me. I got back to my town, I sought out the Hindu priest, and he couldn’t help me. But he gave me some advice. He said, ‘Just to satisfy your curious mind, nothing else, go an talk to the missionary in the mission house at the end of the road.’ And that was fateful advice.” He said, ”Because that day the missionary led me to Christ. I quit Hinduism immediately, and then began to study for the ministry. I left the diplomatic service, and here I am, by God’s grace, in charge of all these missionaries, and we’re winning hundreds of thousands of people to Christ.”
Well, eight months later, the Crystal Palace Baptist pastor was ministering in Sydney, in Gymeir (sp?), southern suburb of Sydney. And he said to the Baptist minister, “Do you know a little man, an elderly little man who witnesses and hands out tracts on George Street?” And he said, “I do. His name is Mr. Genor. G-E-N-O-R. But I don’t think he does it anymore, he’s too frail and elderly.”
The man said, “I want to meet him.” Two nights later, they went around to this little apartment, knocked on the door. And this tiny, frail, little man opened the door. He sat them down and made them some tea, and he was so frail that he was slopping tea into the saucer as he shook. And as he sat with them, this London preacher told him all these accounts over the previous three years. This little man sat with tears running down his cheeks.
He said, “My story goes like this.” He said, “I was a rating on an Australian warship and I lived a reprobate life. And in a crisis, I really hit the wall, and one of my colleagues whom I gave literal hell, was there to help me. He led me to Jesus and the change in my life was night to day in 24 hours and I was so grateful to God. I promised God that I would share Jesus in a simple witness with at least ten people a day - as God gave me strength. Sometimes, I was ill - I couldn’t do it, but I made up for it at other times. I wasn’t paranoid about it, but I have done this for over forty years, and in my retirement years, the best place was on George Street. There were hundreds of people. I got lots of rejections; but a lot of people courteously took the tracts.” And he said, “In forty years of doing this, I’ve never heard of one single person coming to Jesus until today.”
- Now I would say, that has to be commitment. That has to be just sheer gratitude and love for Jesus to do that. Not hearing of any results. Margarita did a little count. That’s 146,100 people that simple little, non-charismatic, Baptist man influenced somehow to Jesus. And I believe that what God was showing that Baptist minister was the tip of the tip of the tip of the tip of this iceberg.
Goodness knows how many more had been arrested for Christ and were doing huge jobs out in the mission field. Mr. Genor died two weeks later. And can you imagine the reward he went home to in heaven? I doubt if his face would have ever appeared on Charisma Magazine. I doubt if there would have ever been a write-up with a photograph in Billy Graham’s Decision Magazine - as beautiful as those magazines are. Nobody except a little group of Baptists in southern Sydney knew about Mr. Genor, but I’ll tell you his name was famous in heaven. Heaven knew Mr. Genor, and you can imagine the welcome and the red carpet and the fanfare that he went home to.
The story behind the story
FRANK JENNER (not Genor) was a member of a brethren assembly; and this is the background:-
During a time of testimonies at Lansdowne Baptist Church, Bournemouth, England in the summer of 1953, Rev Francis Dixon heard two very similar stories from two British sailors who had never met each other before. Both sailors, while on shore leave in Sydney, were approached by a man who asked the question: "Young man, if you were to die tonight, where would you be, in heaven or in hell?" In the course of time they both returned home, but the encounter with this mysterious man on George Street, Sydney, left such a deep impression on their hearts and minds that they both sought spiritual help when back in England. Later, they both became Christians, Francis Dixon himself having the pleasure of leading one of the sailors, Peter Culver, to Christ.
Shortly after this, Francis Dixon departed with his wife Nancy for his first preaching tour to Australia and New Zealand. Deeply fascinated by the coincidence of the two stories of the sailors and recognising that he was heading to the land where these events had happened, he resolved to investigate the matter further. Who was this unconventional street-evangelist? Why had he chosen to act in such a way? And how many other people had been impacted by his ministry?
It didn't take long to get some answers. The tour commenced in Adelaide and, while preaching in a large hall one night, Francis Dixon related the stories of the two sailors from England. At this point, their host - who happened to be sitting next to Mrs Dixon, and to whom they had just been introduced - waved his arms around, jumped up, and said, "I'm another! I'm another!" This man, Murray Wilkes, later told them that during the war the evangelist had approached him while he was running to catch a tram, and that he had given his life to Christ in an army barracks two weeks later.
While in Perth, Francis Dixon again shared the story of the two sailors. This time, a man approached him after the talk to say that he too had become a Christian as a consequence of the single sentence uttered by the evangelist on George Street, Sydney. What's more, he had gone on to lead Christian Endeavour for Western Australia.
And so, Francis Dixon reached Sydney determined to meet the man behind these stories. On arrival, he related the stories to local Christian worker Alec Gilchrist, and asked if he knew the evangelist. "I know him well", said Alec. "His name is Frank Jenner. Like me he works with the Forces and he is a sailor himself. He worships at one of the Christian Brethren assemblies in Sydney".
Later, in Frank and Jessie Jenner's humble town-house, as Francis Dixon told the four stories of the men who had responded to the evangelist's simple question, Frank Jenner, with tears in his eyes, fell to his knees and prayed: "O Lord, thank you for tolerating me". After a time of prayer, Jenner confessed that after speaking to 10 people a day for the previous 16 years, this was the first time he had heard of lasting results. "You know, I never heard that anyone I ever spoke to had gone on for the Lord. Some made professions of salvation when I spoke to them but I never ever knew any more than that", he said to his guests.
Those who knew Frank Jenner testify that his nature was generous and warm, that he quickly inspired trust in others, and that his life was marked by persistence in prayer.
The circumstances of the Second World War - particularly the horrific images of Japan after the atomic bombs - so heightened Jenner's sense of urgency that he felt it necessary to confront others directly about their standing before God. Not that this came easily: Jenner struggled to overcome a gambling habit acquired as a sailor, and he suffered persistent health problems throughout his life. He was so aware of his weakness that before each encounter on George Street he silently prayed: "I can do all things through him who gives me strength". He first coined his now-famous question in 1937, and over the years probably asked nearly 100,000 people.
It is no surprise, then, that his influence extended far beyond Australia. Just a month after meeting Frank Jenner, Francis Dixon spoke at a Methodist Church in Keswick, England. After the service, a man who worked for 'Mission to Mediterranean Garrisons' approached Mr Dixon and said, "I too was challenged by Mr. Jenner and now I am in a soul-winning work myself". Four years after this, while ministering to missionaries in India, Mr Dixon found another convert from George Street, Sydney. She had responded to the evangelist's challenge and offered her life for service in India. In all, Francis Dixon knew of 10 people who had come to Christ as a consequence of the influence of Frank Jenner. I wonder how many more there are?
Frank Jenner, in his own way, and to the embarrassment of some Christians, got to the heart of the issue: he directly challenged sailors about their standing before God. His simple question is not a formula for us to copy, but his life is a wonderful testimony of how God can use those who remain faithful to him.
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